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19 Apr

The Value Of a Strong Brand Image

These days, one of the exciting projects we have on the go is a series of projects that will help our friends at CAM International rebrand to Camino Global and establish themselves on a strong brand foundation for the future. As part of their process of releasing the brand to the ministry family and audiences, they’ve asked us to write a blog post that explains the value of a strong brand identity to a mission organization. Following are my thoughts on that topic.

How does a strong brand identity help a mission organization better communicate who they are?

It’s a great question, but it’s one that inherently contains a subtle presumption that needs to be addressed. The presumption is that there’s some sort of difference between ministry branding and corporate branding - there isn’t. There may very well be differences in what you say, where you say it and how you say it, but the basic principles and benefits of successful branding are the same regardless of the organization.

Successful branding for any organization is always based on a clearly defined and well-understood foundation of knowing who you are as an organization and what you are all about. A brand image is what comes out of that. It’s an honest representation of who you are.

Practically, it involves taking what you know about yourself and asking questions about what icons, shapes, images, colors, tones and design elements best represent that brand.

Typically, this process begins with the development of a logo – a single, iconic mark that may not communicate all of what you are, but captures the heart of your brand. From there, the brand image is carried and expanded into all manner of organizational communications; website, print materials, videos, stationery, email footers, marketing materials, advertisements and even internal communications (i.e. newsletters and memos).

The logo is used as a benchmark for the design of those other mediums and provides direction to the process as the brand image is expanded to incorporate campaigns, photography and color palettes.

The great value placed on brand image is evidenced in case studies such as Pepsi’s willingness to spend approximately $1 million dollars to revamp it’s logo in 2008 and the subsequent hundreds of millions it is estimated that it took them to then update all of their communications (marketing, advertising, internal communications, etc.…) to bring them in line with the new look.

So clearly, the value must be there, but what exactly is it?

Your organization’s brand image acts as a visual and mental “hook” that does a number of incredibly important things.

First, it visually conveys who you are. If you’ve developed your identity as an honest representation of who you are, your brand image can be a powerful qualifier that communicates who you are and your story. It’s not about putting a glossy veneer on an otherwise, shabby organization. Good branding involves looking at the core of your organization and asking tough questions about how you do what you do. It’s only at the point that you’ve answered those questions, that you are ready to create a corresponding brand image that compliments your brand.

Second, not everyone is a textual learner and so a visual representation of your brand is a helpful thing for those people who are best impacted by visual communications.

Third, it brings validity to your organization. If you look like a ‘mom-and-pop shop’ you’ll be perceived as such. But in a world where people are concerned to ensure that the money they donate to non-profits is used well, conveying a sense of stability and quality via a strong brand image goes a long, long way.

Finally, your brand image acts as a mental cue on which people hang their perceptions of your organization. They associate their positive or negative experiences with the colors, icons and look-and-feel of your organization. If you do a good job of offering a superior product or service, that brand impression will be really positive. Having a simple, effective brand image to hang that impression on is a powerful tool.

On the most basic level, brand imaging is actually a pretty common sense concept and something that we all employ in our daily lives.

For instance, when you go to a job interview, you don’t walk in looking like a slob. You dress well. You groom well. You prepare your thoughts and your questions for the prospective employer. In other words, you put thought, time and effort into putting your best personal brand image out there because you know that all that time and effort, results in you leaving a better impression on the interviewer.

Once you’ve done that, it’s the interviewers job then to research you and to learn more about you so as to ensure that what they saw in the interview was an honest portrayal of who you are, the kind of employee you have been and the kind of employee you are likely to be in the future.

At base, that’s the branding process for organizations as well. You identify who you are and then do your best as an organization to communicate that effectively to your audience(s) and then from there, they will come to their own personal conclusions about who you are and what you are all about.

By exuding a strong brand image, you give yourself the very best chance to be heard, taken seriously, trusted and then remembered by your audience.

That is the value of a strong brand image.

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